How and when should you approach the topic of sex education? How can you approach the subject with children who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)? What resources can you use? Get some useful guidance and suggestions here.
When is sex education taught at school and is it compulsory?
The UK government is currently going through a consultation on proposed new laws which are intended to come into force in September 2020. These laws will make it a statutory requirement for all children to receive “Relationships Education” at primary school, and “Relationships and Sex Education” at secondary school. The Equality Act of 2010 states that schools must not discriminate against students based on a variety of factors, including SEND. On this basis, educators will need to ensure that they are providing Relationships Education at primary level and Relationships and Sex Education at secondary, including to children and young people with SEND needs. However, the guidance in the SEND Code of Practice must also be taken into account and an adapted curriculum provided as required, dependent on the individual needs of each child.
Sex education starts at home
Whether children have special needs or not, they will begin learning about sex and relationships from an early age. By the time they start school, they will usually have noticed that girls and boys look different to each other, and many will have asked why! They also notice things like how the adults in their lives make contact with each other. It might be a simple hug or kiss but this all forms the foundation of their education on the subject. While researching this blog, I came across an interesting resource – it’s Canadian so will not tie in with the UK National Curriculum, but the guidance is great and there are some really useful ideas for how you can approach this at home. The NSPCC also offer some useful guidance on broaching the subject with 3-5 year olds here.
Primary sex education resources
The NSPCC also provide lesson plans, presentations and guidance notes on this page for teachers at primary school level. The “PANTS” theme is continued from their early years/parent’s guidance, which can help with continuity as children move into a primary setting.
Secondary sex education resources – It’s Not OK!
At secondary level, children will learn more detail when it comes to the mechanics of reproduction as well as topics such as contraception. The aim of the new legislation is also to ensure that children learn about the risks of online relationships, grooming and sexting etc. The NSPCC again provide some excellent learning materials for this as part of their “It’s Not OK” campaign/resources, which can be found here.
Sex education and SEND
At all age levels, it is important that the topic of sex and relationships is not side-lined because a child has SEND. This is because many young people who have special needs may be particularly vulnerable to inappropriate or abusive relationships. For example, children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) problems tend to be inclined to participate in risky behaviours such as drug and alcohol use and sexual activity, and children with communication difficulties may be targeted by abusive adults seeking inappropriate relationships. The NSPCC also provides some excellent guidance on how to deliver sex and relationships education to children with SEND here.
Do you have resources to share?
If you have put together or used any resources for your lessons on sex education and would like to share them with our readers, please feel free to send them to us, and we’d be happy to publish them in the resources section of the Axcis Blog.